Rainbow Mountain: The Natural Wonder of Peru
Vinicunca, commonly known as Rainbow Mountain, is a site not to be missed during your visit to Peru. This difficult hike can be done as a day trip from Cuzco.
Throughout the hike you will be mesmerized by the views of the Ausangate mountain, an Inca deity of Cuzco, that reaches 6372 meters and holds Inca gold mines under its glacier.
This 16 km hike is quite strenuous. The hike itself is not that steep, but as you hike up in the mountains your body has less and less oxygen which makes breathing increasingly difficult.
Make sure to start the day with a coca tea as it helps a lot with the altitude.
Starting at 3h30am in Cuzco, you have to ride a van for about 3 hours. Then you have breakfast before the hike.
The hike starts in a nice valley and once you have completed the first 30 minutes, you reach a point where there is a possibility to rent a horse to get close to the top.
Since I was carrying all my heavy equipment and had a hard time with the altitude, I opted for a horse.
Even though part of me felt quite lazy not to be hiking, I also had a job to do and needed to get to Vinicunca as early as possible.
Honestly, it was the best decision for me! I got to relax and take in all the beauty of the scenery.
Usually I would have been focused on my hike and I would not have been able to really observe and appreciate the natural beauty around me.
The weird thing is, or at least the thing that made me feel slightly guilty, is that everyone using horses requires the use of an arielo. The arielo walks next to me and holds my horse. They don’t allow tourist to control the horses, so here I was on a horse while a dedicated local carried me around.
Dressed in traditional clothing, all the arielos wear these typical sandals that are made of car tires. While my hands were freezing because of the temperature, all the locals around me wore sandals. All around the Andes, this is the most common type of footwear for villagers.
Along our hike, we encountered wild lamas and alpacas in the valley. The views were out if this world.
After about three hours and a half of walking you reach the top at 5200 meters.
The last stretch is the hardest, but it is absolutely worth it.
This is where you will get your perfect picture!
Take into consideration that after reaching the top, every steps get easier. As I hiked back down, with every step that I took, I felt better.
During the 8 kilometers hike back, my body was getting increasingly tired and I could feel the weight of my heavy backpack on my shoulders. But I could also feel my head lighter and the adrenaline kicking in.
Coming down is definetely the best part of altitude hiking. Your body may be getting more tired, but suddenly you have more and more oxygen which helps considerably with breathing.
Rainbow mountain is truly one of the most beautiful sights that I have seen in my life. It is an absolute must while visiting Cuzco, but it is undeniably a difficult hike.
Once you arrive in Cuzco, take the time to acclimatize before you take on this hike because the cold and the altitude affects almost everyone. Drink as much coca tea as you need and let your body get ready.
If you’re not an active person but you wish to see this natural wonder, plan on having an extra budget to take a horse. The price for the horse seems to change from day to day, but during my visit it was 50 soles one way or 80 soles return. As for the tour for Rainbow mountain, it should not cost you more than 100 soles.
Before your hike you should also buy warm clothes, gloves, scarf and head cover. The ones sold at the entrance are at least twice as expensive as in Cuzco.
You also need to drink a lot of water, hydration is the key to help preventing altitude sickness.
Many of the pictures in this articles were taken by my friend Gedeon Richard. All pictures were edited by me.